When summer comes around pesto is one of my go to favorites to brighten up so many summer meals. Fresh Italian sweet basil is available by the bushels full during the summer months and making batches of pesto to stash away for the winter is an annual ritual.
I have previously posted five pesto recipe variations, but not a truly Italian basic pesto recipe which follows. Take a look at the other pesto recipes below.
The word pesto refers to the pestle which has been traditionally used to grind the pesto ingredients in a mortar through the ages in Italy. More modern methods for making pesto, such as using a mezzaluna, a blender, or a food processor have not replaced the mortar and pestle, but have made the process more compatible with the time restraints of the modern cook. What ever the method used, Pesto remains enshrined as one of Italy’s most revered sauces. So, whether you are a staunch traditionalist ready for a work out or a modernist with little time to spare, the rewards of bringing this glistening emerald green pesto to the table will be apparent.
I have included the optional addition of butter to this recipe which has become quite popular in Italy. The butter gives the pesto a richer silky texture that works beautifully with pastas. You may well be a committed traditionalist, as I too have been, but why not give the addition of butter a try.
Fresh Sweet Italian Basil Pesto: makes about 2 1/2 cups
- ½ cup walnuts or pignole (pine nuts) or a combination of both
- 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
- 6 black peppercorn, coarsely ground
- 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter (optional)
- hands full of fresh sweet Italian basil/ about 3 well packed cups of torn leaves
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano
- ½ cup grated Pecorino, Sardo, or Romano
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil or a little extra if omitting the butter
Place the nuts, sea salt, ground peppercorns, garlic, and butter (if using) in a mortar, blender, or food processor, and grind or pulse into a coarse mixture.
Add the basil leaves and grind or pulse until the mixture is semi-smooth.
Add the cheeses and grind or pulse until evenly mixed with the other ingredients.
Begin adding the olive oil a tablespoon at a time while grinding or pulsing. Gradually you can increase the flow of olive oil as the pesto begins to emulsify and the pesto is rather smooth but with some texture remaining.
Taste and add additional salt if needed.
Transfer to a container with a lid and set aside if using within an hour or so. Ideally the pesto should be used at room temperature, especially with pasta or other cooked applications. Slightly chilled is fine when using as a spread or condiment.
Refrigerated the pesto will last 5 days, although with each passing day the brilliant green color will begin to fade.
Freezing is the best option for longtime storage.
Other pesto recipes well worth a try.
Pesto alla Siciliana & Pesto Trapanese (see recipe here)
Spinach Pesto with Panchetta (see recipe here)
Pomegranate Glazed Pork Loin with Pistacio Pesto (see recipe here)
Pesto…Diverso (see recipe here)
Salsa Romesco (see recipe here)